Friday, 7 July 2017

The hidden world of R.E.M. #14

The Monster Tour was R.E.M.'s first tour in more than five years. It saw them playing enormous venues, moving on from the large arenas they played during the Green Tour to stadiums. MrsRobster and I hooked up during the UK leg when we saw them at Cardiff Arms Park. You can see why I have such fondness for this era...

Another concert movie was made to mark the significance of the Monster Tour. While Roadmovie may not have as high acclaim as Tourfilm did, it was still quite brilliant as far as concert movies go. In order to make more of a show within the vast spaces they were playing in, the band incorporated more of a visual aspect than they had before with large-scale projections used as backdrops. They also augmented their line-up with additional musicians (Scott McCaughey and Nathan December) something they had never done before in a concert setting.

Roadmovie is a worthwhile document of a much feted tour. I love most of the songs on 'Monster' and they sound amazing live. I might have to post I Took Your Name from this in a future post because it just sounds incredible. But for now...

This tour resulted in R.E.M.'s next album. All the songs for 'New Adventures in Hi-Fi' were written during the Monster Tour, and most of them recorded live during shows and soundchecks. One of those new songs, Revolution, didn't make the subsequent record. By the time they came to compile it, the political references and themes in the lyrics had dated to the point where it was deemed out of step with the rest of the album. A studio version was recorded and given over to the Batman & Robin soundtrack, but the live version on Roadmovie is deemed to be far superior. I don't disagree.

Let Me In was Michael Stipe's tribute to his late friend Kurt Cobain. It is the outstanding highlight on 'Monster' and to this day remains one of my all-time top 5 R.E.M. tracks. Live, Mike Mills plays a guitar owned by Cobain, while Peter Buck plays keyboards. The flashing visuals flicker relentlessly as the sprawling guitar reverberates around the vast space, filling the air with the most unusual and unique sounds ever heard at an R.E.M. show. It is an intensely personal and emotional song for Stipe, and rather uncomfortable for the listener. Typically, this is probably why I adore it so much and always have. During the Cardiff date, I remember experiencing a real jawdropping 'wow' moment when they played Let Me In. Watching it in Roadmovie again takes me right back there.

I can't not post the clip now, can I...? Instructions: turn off the lights, close the curtains. Listen through a decent pair of headphones at high volume and watch full screen. Be blown away.


  1. I didn't catch the Monster tour, but owned a VHS copy of Roadmovie back in the mists of time. Fine selections again today Robster.

  2. Pretty cool to see Mills playing Kurt's Jagstang.

  3. It had to happen sooner or later: a gig, R.E.M. or otherwise, that we were both at. Lucky that Mrs Robster spotted you first!

    A pretty decent support too, as I recall: Del Amitri(who I got there just too late to see), Belly (like I'm going to miss the chance to see Tanya Donnelly!), and The Cranberries, who were massive at the time but who I managed to miss too, queueing to buy food preferential for me.

    But what an gig from the boys, especially in light of the health issues of at least one of the band. Although I got the impression that many in the crowd didn't really know much of the back catalogue, although this is based on the looks I got when shouting "Leonard Bernstein" at the appropriate moment during "It's the End of the World..." and absolutely nobody joined in.

    As for "Let Me In", it's a stunning song and a stunning version. Always surprises me that it doesn't feature more often in conversations about what their best track is (we all know it's "Country Feedback", as you rightly pointed out over at my place a while ago) but in terms of layers, mood and atmosphere this must run it pretty close. Jez.

  4. Great post.

    'Monster' was such an unexpected LP on the back of what had come before.There were bits of it that took me a while to get my head round, and I'm still not convinced that 'Tongue' was a geeat idea. But 'Let Me In' is one of their best ever few minutes in any album....although the subsequent 'New Adventures' album still reamins my favourite of all LPs.